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Santa Cruz—come for the beach and the redwoods, stay for the beer and the company. In recent years, several breweries and taprooms have been sprouting up all over Santa Cruz County, and we’re certainly not complaining. They each have their own unique style and ambiance, but they do have a couple of things in common: they make tasty beer with a creative, entrepreneurial spirit and they bring their communities together in celebration of this timeless craft.

Whether it’s been a hot day at the beach or a long day at work, a refreshing Hibiscus Saison or robust Double IPA may be just the thing you need (or at least want). Round out the day by chatting with a few friends at the local watering hole as the light turns golden, the sun setting to amber in your glass.

It’s a rare occurrence indeed, on which we could think of any reason to turn down a frothy, frosty and tasty beverage that tints the world with rose-colored glasses. Here are just a few of the many good reasons not to.

Check back regularly, we’re not done tasting beer around here.

 

This guide was originally published on January 22, 2016.

Additional reporting by Lily Stoicheff.

  • The Cremer House

    Felton

    At Cremer House, the oldest building in downtown Felton, owners Bob Locatelli and Emily Thomas bring together natural foods and organic beer. They showcase 25 local craft beers on tap as well as ciders, wines and homemade sodas. Get up into the redwoods and enjoy a handcrafted beer and a delicious, down home meal. Try the Margaret Cremer, brewed for the Cremer House by Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing or the Little Quibble from Sante Adarius, who we’ll be adding to this list soon. This is also a great spot to try a Corralitos beer if you can’t make it all the way down to their neck of the woods. Can’t decide? Do a tasting flight; you really can’t go wrong.

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  • Corralitos Brewing Company

    Corralitos

    The first brewery in south Santa Cruz County, Corralitos Brewing Co. opened its doors in February, 2015. Set amidst scenic farmland in the Pacific Firewood building, this unassuming spot will hook you from the first sip. Owners Luke Taylor and Mike Smith aren't messing around. Although they recently opened their taproom, they've been perfecting brews and pouring in the community since 2008. A few of our favorites are the 9 not 6 Session IPA, the Festus Belgian IPA and the limited release Sour Blonde – a perfect treat for any craft head out there. The Ate3one food truck is usually around with some tasty treats to pair with your beer. Corralitos Brewing Company, you had me at Hibiscus Saison!

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  • West End Tap & Kitchen

    Westside Santa Cruz

    A top-notch community gastropub, West End showcases outstanding beers as well as sensational food. Touted by many as the best burger in Santa Cruz, this cavernous spot has something for everyone. They pour their own house beers as well as a variety from Uncommon Brewers and Hermitage Brewing Co. Owner Quinn grew up in Aptos and has roots in the beer business – her family opened one of the first microbreweries in California. Chef and co-owner Geoff brings French Cuisine techniques, using local ingredients and a California menu. Come witness this most excellent pairing.

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  • New Bohemia Brewing Company

    Eastside Santa Cruz

    Dan Satterthwaite, the brewmaster behind New Bohemia (or “NuBo”) has been brewing beer in Santa Cruz for the last 10 years. He and business partner Mike Hochleutner wanted to bring the magic of the old Kingdom of Bohemia and its vibrant beer culture to current day Santa Cruz. They specialize in the crisper styles that are favorites in Central Europe – but they also do a mean Whale of an Ale Double IPA. We recommend the Highway to Hefe Bavarian Wheat and the Velvet Revolution Vienna Lager. Pull up a seat and expect to stay awhile, Dan will make you feel right at home.

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  • Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

    Westside Santa Cruz

    This award-winning organic brewery not only offers seven flagship ales, but also innovative seasonal beers, hard ciders, draught root beer and Kombucha. This family brewery was founded in 2005, giving it 10 years of good standing in the community. Owners/brewers Emily Thomas and Chad Brill love beer and travel the world learning about it. Emily spent many weekends during college learning the art of brewing and passed this hobby on to Chad. In turn, they have created a fine establishment with outstanding brews. Try them all.

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  • Discretion Brewing

    Soquel

    Discretion owner Kathleen Genco seeks to encourage the creation of goodness in the form of beer while providing a place to enjoy it. Well, we think she’s got that covered. Discretion has become a neighborhood favorite, not least so because of The Kitchen at Discretion, which boasts Chef Santos Majano (formerly of Soif). Brewmaster Michael Demers started homebrewing over 20 years ago and has earned multiple awards for his beers. Our favorite is Uncle Dave’s Rye IPA, but visit for yourself and find your own!

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  • Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

    Capitola

    Google maps may have hard time taking you to this brewery at the end of a frontage road, but your persistence will reward you. SARA, as the brewery is familiarly known, embraces a low-tech approach to brewing, fermenting their beers entirely in barrels and allowing their carefully cultivated house microbial yeast cultures to work their magic. The result: nationally recognized funky, bright saisons, robust, roasty porters and bracingly hoppy IPAs.

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  • Lupulo

    Downtown Santa Cruz

    Lupulo, which is Spanish for "hops", serves up a diverse array of craft brews with 16 constantly rotating taps and over a hundred bottles to take home or try on premise. Their tapas-inspired seasonal menu ensures you'll linger. During a recent expansion, which more than doubled their space, a shuffle board and piano were added, enhancing the already festive atmosphere.

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  • Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House

    Soquel

    You can relax with a beer and your two- and four-legged friends in Beer Thirty's outdoor beer garden. Their 30 constantly rotating taps and 250+ bottles ensure that even the most adventurous beer geeks will never tire of their offerings. Most of the garden is family friendly, but the back gaming area hosts the 21+ crowd for darts, corn hole and ping pong. Keep an eye on their event calendar on their Facebook page for upcoming Tap Takeover events featuring rare and sought-after brews.

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  • Santa Cruz Aleworks

    Santa Cruz

    Come for the beer, stay for the sandwiches. This brewery isn't getting fancy with their suds; they make four styles - Kolsch, Hefeweizen, IPA and Oatmeal Stout. But what they do they do well, and each offering is balanced and quenching. Come hungry and try one of their delicious sandwiches - everything is made in house, including pickles, krauts, smoked meats and gluten-free bread.

  • East Cliff Brewing

    Live Oak

    East Cliff Brewing Co., the newest addition to the thriving Santa Cruz craft beer scene, focuses on British-style cask ales, which are probably foreign to anyone who hasn’t crossed the pond. Malty characteristics shine through in these Old World-style ales, and lower alcohol (around 4-5 percent ABV) allows the drinker to enjoy several without feeling too knackered. Naturally carbonated in the cask (hence the moniker), servers pump the ale with the help of shiny, steampunk-esque beer engines. The brewery bears little physical resemblance to a dimly lit British pub—the space is open, light and airy. Whitewashed walls set off a dazzling mural of the Harbor Lighthouse done in psychedelic colors by artist Yeshe Jackson.

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  • Shanty Shack Brewing

    Santa Cruz

    Shanty Shack Brewing may be the thirteenth brewery to open in Santa Cruz County, but it has a soul of its own. The pub glows with fresh, bright green accent walls painted with trailing hops vines and colorful local art. A garage door rolls up to a huge outdoor patio with picnic tables, a variety of potted fruit trees and fire pits just waiting for the sun to set. Owners and brewers Brandon Padilla and Nathan Van Zandt, both barely 30, have been brewing partners for more than five years, and their repertoire includes a range of fresh takes on American and European styles. However, it’s hard to miss the mountain of neatly stacked oak barrels directly behind the bar. Padilla and Van Zandt are big fans of barrel-aged beers, and it’s clear that this may be where their passion truly lies.

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  • Pour Taproom

    Downtown Santa Cruz

    Yogurtland built an empire out of the simple fact that people want to serve themselves exactly what they want. So when is a bar going to apply that model to beer? How about now? Pour has 60-plus beers and eight wines on tap (and craft root beer for kids) and patrons serve themselves. Yes, really. Once you walk in, you hand over your ID and are given a special bracelet, which you scan at the taps. This system allows you to try a bunch of beers you wouldn’t normally be able to sample in a small scale—or mix and match 7-11-style, if that's your thing.

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  • Elkhorn Slough Brewing

    Watsonville

    Watsonville's first nano brewery is located in a high-ceilinged warehouse in an industrial park off of Airport Boulevard, a short distance as the heron flies from its nearby namesake estuary. A chalkboard menu and a short bar welcome guests as they enter through a roll-up door. Elkhorn Slough's modest three-barrel brew house hugs the back wall, and a smattering of upturned barrels, picnic tables and much-loved furniture fills most of the space. Visitors can expect saisons, fresh takes on American styles, and barrel-aged offerings on the menu, and food trucks usually pop up on the weekends.

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  • 99 Bottles

    Downtown Santa Cruz

    Originally designed with a traditional old world pub in mind, 99 Bottles has been a friendly neighborhood gathering place for over 20 years. Their name is a bit of a misnomer, though—they actually have far more than 99 different types of beer available for purchase from all around the world. Frequent visitors can mark 99 beers off a card for an opportunity to have their name engraved on the Wall of Fame. 99 Bottles also serves up delicious pub food for the whole family.

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